Title: Building a Future Archaeology on the Tarentum - Code: 00009
Contest: Rome / 2010
By: Richard Unterthiner Jr.

Views: 3491 Likes: 0




Building a Future Archaeology on the Tarentum

Building a Future Archaeology on the Tarentum

In many modern cities, the once vital relationship between the urban fabric and the natural waterways that flank and intersect it is increasingly paralyzed.  Modern Rome’s rapport with its ancient Tiber River is no exception. Rome’s unique network of roads – some revealing the trace if ancient thoroughfares, others marked by Baroque urban schemes, still more of modern pedigree – are interrupted by the river.  The weaving presence of the Tiber is felt, especially, as one walks or drives along the myriad lungoteveri which flank it and the various ponti that cross it. Yet despite the frenzy of activity that unfolds above and around the river, it is estranged from civic life. Even the turn of the 20th-century embankment that served to control flooding and offered Romans a broad walkway to stroll upon is virtually unused. The Tiber, thus alienated from the living urban fabric of Rome, has become an artefact.

The aim of this project is, first and foremost, to set up an urban condition that reengages the populous and the city with its river. By beginning to erode the embankment along the Tiber, and create porosity where the river meets the wall, a more participatory situation can occur, activating more social relationships between the water and passers-by. The site I have chosen is the largo Lorenzo Perozi and area at the east end of the Ponte Mazzini, where I plan to create a sectional gradation tapering towards the Tiber upon which a new public space will be developed.  A cluster of grade-level buildings will be conjoined to a series of subterranean spaces, some of which are built directly under the lungotevere.  These sub-street volumes will house an infrastructure meant to facilitate the treatment, reclamation and purification of water from the Tiber. In a way, this is much like a modern temple dedicated to the stewardship and safeguarding of Rome’s water supply. The architectural pavilions comprising the upper built forms are in service of this underground program. The entire complex is dedicated to fostering a greater understanding of Roman water systems – from its ancient aqueducts, to its myriad Baroque fountains, to its eternal Tiber. It is meant as both a facility for education and learning, as well as display and performance. Visitors, resident scholars and staff are encouraged to use the available resources which include: a library, gallery, restaurant, conference hall as well as workshops, lecture rooms and residences, all of which are in place to engender new ways of understanding Rome and its water.

When approached from the via Giulia and the other streets to the north, the site is as dense as the neighbouring buildings, and one is meant to stumble upon the pavilions much like any other buildings in Rome. The colours and materials are borrowed from the white and ochre of the city.  The geometries of the pavilions are meant as trace histories of the extant buildings on the site, as well as after-images of long destroyed buildings and, paradoxically, of ones that have yet to be built. From the via di Bianchi Vecchi, one can follow one of many courses past the via Giulia underneath pavilions and past pools to the largo Lorenzo Perosi, the large court which connects to the water’s edge. This court is significant in that it is the only large public gathering space directly at the waterline of the Tiber, allowing for people to come to the water and the water to come to the people. The court is also notable in that if the Tiber were to rise or flood (as has been the case throughout Roman history), the area would fill with the Tiber water where it would be contained by means of a hydraulic hydrostatic wall at the top of the court which rises to the height of the existing embankment. This ephemeral pool would add to the unique and dynamic urban experience of the site, as well as symbolize the inherent tensions and challenges that are ever present in human/urban/water relations.

The site was chosen for two reasons, one functional the other symbolic. First, functionality. This is one of only a few urban sites bordering the Tiber that has remained relatively un-built; the triangular layout, widening as it meets the river, beckons for an intervention that marries the city with its waterway. The site also has the necessary length to be able to excavate down to the water’s edge while still allowing for a natural gradation back to the level of the city. Various streets penetrate the site from virtually every direction, offering an extant condition of flow and interchange that can be further developed. Finally, the large scale of the site makes it possible to build in strata, thereby creating a kind of breathable density. Second, symbolism. As with most sites in Rome, this particular site (and its vicinity) may have some historical or, at the very least, legendary significance.  If one accepts the writing of Valerius Maximus, a Latin writer active during the reign of Tiberius, water at this site had healing properties. Maximus wirtes of Valesius, a man of noble birth who wished to remedy his children’s illnesses and, hearing of the miraculous power of the water, made his way to the region (known as the Tarentum) around the current site.  There, he administered waters from the natural springs to his children and they were soon restored to good health. In gratitude, Valesius made a sacrifice to Dis and Proserpina. His sacrifice was repeated and perpetuated in subsequent centuries by Romans in honour of this tale of rejuvenation. As a consequence, various festivals were celebrated at this site and numerous altars and temples erected.

My project builds upon this historical narrative, by creating contemporary architecture on a site with a seemingly ancient back story. The whole is a kind of architectural palimpsest with a history written in the present that looks toward the future. As a corollary to the ancient connectivity between the site and its water, this project envisions modern temples, courts and pools that replace worship with enlightened community and offer new ways of bridging the gap between the city and the water.


Title: Building a Future Archaeology on the Tarentum

Time: 16 marzo 2010
Category: Rome
Views: 3491 Likes: 0

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